Wines of Mendoza

January 12, 2009  •  Leave a Comment
The last few weeks my travels have taken on a different character. From a lot of focus on the outdoors and remote places, the period over Christmas and New Years have mostly been spent enjoying excellent food and copious amounts of even better wine. I blame this change entirely on my friend Hermod who joined me a few days before Christmas and forced me into such a strenuous lifestyle.We met in Santiago, spent a few days there, then crossed the border to Mendoza in Argentina to spend Christmas there. Then went south to Bariloche, crossed back into Chile and Puerto Montt and finally north again to Valparaiso. I'll post pictures from some of those places in a bit, but I'm spending the next week on Easter Island and the Internet connection is quite slow out here so it may take a while.Click here for a few more wining and dining pictures from the holidays.

Parque Nacional Avaroa

December 21, 2008  •  Leave a Comment
The trip from Uyuni to the Salar continued for two more days to the Chilean border, passing through vast open landscapes. The area is extremely dry and barren and except for tourism there is virtually no human activity. The area includes several colored lakes, a huge population of flamingos and dozens of volcanos (a few of them still active), weird rock formations, geysers and hot springs.These 4 days through Southwest Bolivia was quite an experience. The ride is a bit rough and accommodation is very basic, but the scenery is hard to beat. Full album here.

Salar de Uyuni

December 20, 2008  •  Leave a Comment
One of the major attractions of Bolivia is the Salar de Uyuni, the worlds largest salt flat. And it's popular for a reason. I took a 4-day tour by jeep from Uyuni to the Chilean border. We started with a quick visit to the local train graveyard, then headed out on the saltflats. We spent the first night in a village on the slopes of the Tunupa volcano, a 5400m mountain we hiked at sunrise the next morning.The scenery is fascinating. Every natural reaction is to think that something that big and flat is a lake. Which I guess this is, but I repeatedly had to do a double take when looking up and seeing that everything was white. And it's hard to understand from the pictures how big it is. The flat is 10,582 km² (4,085 square miles) and it took hours to drive across. Full album here.

The Mines of Potosi

December 17, 2008  •  Leave a Comment
400 years ago Potosi was the highest city in the world and biggest and richest in South America. At 4070 meters, it is still the highest... As the supply of Silver diminshed and other sources were discovered around the world Potosi went through a slow, relentless decline. The mines are still active, but these days it is mainly for tin, zinc lead and other low-priced minerals and the revenues are a fraction of what they once were.The city itself is actually one of the most pleasant I've been to so far. And despite the misfortunes of their city, the people seem genuinly happy. More than any other place the streets of Potosi are filled with people at night and there are a number of nice cafes and bars.To the bewilderment of the local population, one of the main tourist attractions is a tour of the mines. Due to the low revenues there has barely been any technological progress and the mines are operated much as they were 50 or 100 years ago. The work is hard and manual and the tunnels are at times extremely narrow (crawl on all four class narrow) and the air is filled with toxic dust. A fascinating place to visit, miserable place to work.Full album here.

Bolivia cont.

December 10, 2008  •  Leave a Comment
Prior to Cordillera Real I had parted ways with Andre. We had fairly similar plans for the rest of Bolivia, but he has to catch a flight in December so had to rush through. But we traveled together for over 3 weeks and had a great time so I don't mind spending some time alone again. And on December 19th I will be meeting Hermod in Santiago the Chile and travel with him for 3 weeks.Returning to La Paz after the climb I then took a bike ride to Coroico, down what's known as the "The Worlds Most Dangerous Road". A bit overhyped if you ask me. It was a nice enough day, but certainly not the adrenaline highlight of the trip. But a very positive surprise was the La Sende Verde animal refuge where the tour company ended the trip. The above picture was taken there.After now more than two months of travel I found it was time for a vacation from the vacation so had planned to stay 2-3 days in Coroico, a very relaxed place with beautiful views. But the day after I arrived a group of eight 20-year old Bolivians checked in for a long weekend of partying so I argued with the owner to let me leave that day even though it was well pas check-out time. Jumped on a bus to La Paz and then directly on a 12-hour night bus to Sucre.I have spent a full 3 days in Sucre, not doing much else than processing my pictures from the last two weeks, lots of reading and random Internet browsing. Stayed at a very nice $28/night hotel and thoroughly enjoyed the luxury (that's almost 10x more than I paid in La Paz...)Now off to Potosi and then Salar de Uyuni before I cross into Chile and San Pedro de Atacama around the 14th. I expect to be moving quickly from one spot to another the next 10 days or so, so it might be a while till the next update.
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